Environment Design Students Work on ‘Live’ Project to Conserve Ageing Estate

A sleepy precinct of old SIT blocks of flats sit next to the somnolent Geylang River, watched over by large shady trees that have grown with the estate since its development more than 60 years ago. Dakota Crescent is that charming slice of Singaporean history now slated for redevelopment.

Its story is not new. Indeed, in places all over Singapore, it has been told over and over again – due to the scarcity of land resources in Singapore, older residential sites will have to be redeveloped to maximize land use.

This time, a group of architects and social historians have banded together to try to present alternative solutions to conserve the site. With them is a group of some 39 final-year students from TP’s School of Design’s Environment Design course.

For the students, what started as another academic exercise, quickly grew to be a real industry project, based on an actual site with real social issues attached. It was the sort of project all designers would love to chew on.

The students met with residents – some of whom have been there since the estate was young, researched the lives that have grown apace with the ageing estate, and proposed alternative ideas that allowed the site to be conserved and reinvented for the 21st century. Rather than tear down, they persuade, let’s try to rejuvenate.

The students presented their ideas to the Saving Dakota Crescent group, led by architect Jonathan Poh of JP Studio, and Cai Yinzhou of Dakota Adventures. So impressed with the students’ range of ideas, Poh decided to include them into the proposal that he and the Saving Dakota Crescent group were working on, to be presented to the MP for the area and eventually, to be considered by the URA.

The Environment Design students went one step further to present their ideas to the public and the architectural design community during the Noise Festival 2016 and Archifest 2016.

To cap what has turned out to be a meaningful project in many ways, EVD student Darien Wu’s project on Dakota Crescent went on to win the gold medal for the Singapore Institute of Landscape Architects (SILA) Student Awards 2016. And as if that was not enough, the project went on to win the Silver Award in the SPADE Design Excellence Awards 2016.